Managing Conflict

Most of the conflict in my life stems from my the center that I work in and it involves the parents, children and staff.  The conflict that I will disucss now involves a child that had been in the center since he was one and is currently four years old.  To my understanding this child has always been a disruption from his first day til his last yet he has been allowed to remain in the center.  When I first met him he was two and a half at which point I was told that he was developmentally delayed and that he was receiving therapy through Early Childhood Interventionist.  At 3 he was no longer eligible for this help and began attending the public school PCDI program.  There were several issues that we dealt with on a daily basis with this child and just as many incident reports--biting (started at 4), hitting (he had a particular affinity for hitting the older children), spitting, slapping, kicking, throwing toys and pitching a fit.  I maintained from the beginning that we were doing a disservice to this child, his family and every other family in our center because we were not helping him and several other families were upset that their children were getting hurt by this child.  I personally have had clothes ripped, been kicked, bitten and head butted by this child and was at the end of my rope because the director refused to dis enroll him.  A few weeks ago after having spent 2 hours dealing with one of his fits he was finally able to go back to his classroom.  I took him to class, walked out, he began screaming, removed the child locks on the door and then ran from the room.  The teacher could not catch him but the District Manager and myself were up front.  The DM caught him just as he reached the front door and tried to calm him down while I continued to assist other families that were picking up their children and witnessing yet another of his fits.  The DM tried for over 30 mins to calm him before he began trying to slap and spit at her.  At this point he was uncontrollable and inconsolable so I had to call his mother to pick him up.  He would not stay in the classroom and as always he was a safety risk so I was happy that finally something would be done about this child.  Upon calling his mother and informing her of the situation she became upset because she did not understand what was going on, why we could not control him and this is was big inconvenience for her because she had to leave work.  She actually hung up the phone in my face, called back to tell me that she was beginning to not feel comfortable leaving him in our care.  In the back of my mind I'm thinking "Is she serious?  Every child and parent in this building knows about her child, families have actually left because of this one child, teachers don't want to work with him and the children don't like to play with him because you never know what he's going to do to you but she was uncomfortable with us."  I listened to her as she continued by saying that she may need to move him because every time she picked him up we had something to say.  She just didn't understand.  Now I'm screaming in my head, "REALLY, REALLY, YOU don't understand?"  On more than one occasion he has open hand slapped her in the face while at the center but she didn't understand.  Anyway, when she arrived she was still upset about the situation especially when I informed her that he would not be allowed to return until we were able to conference with her and develop an intervention plan.  She was not happy about this and then began questioning what we were going to do about the other children that misbehave.  I had to remind her that our focus right now should be her child and that, sadly, he was ALWAYS the aggressor.  With the exception of one child, who left the very next morning, her child was the aggressor and the other children were fed up with being his punching bag.  I have been at this center for almost two years now and I have written about this child on more than one occasion as I recall one of my first blog comments related to him.  Within two weeks of working in the center I knew that this was a bomb waiting to explode because there were too many issues surrounding this child--safety, behavior and not being able to provide appropriate care for any other child because we were constantly focused on one and a director who would not dis-enroll.

Ok, so that was a long story but it was a conflict that I have had since I began working here not only with this child but with the parent as well.  Our conflicts were numerous including the fact that I do not feel it is within my job capacity to abused by a child.  As far as the parent is concerned she felt that I was the problem in this situation because I made her aware of her child's behavior.  I don't usually dump on a parent every little thing there child does but in this instance I kept behavior logs, incident reports and tried to maintain the lines of communication with the parent so that she was aware of the situation.  I wanted to make sure that we never had the issue of her saying, "I didn't know he was doing anything."  I also think that there was, and still is, conflict with the director because she refuses to dis-enroll children that are over and beyond our capacity to work with. 

In my conflict with the child I have applied the 3 R's, as I do with every child.  In talking to this child I have always tried to be respectful, in my speech, my behavior and of his space.  If he was upset and did not want to be touched I would let him be.  On the occasion when I had to restrain him I would also explain what I was doing and why.  I hope that in reading this blog no one gets the impression that I did not care for this child or that I only wanted to be rid of him. This was not the case, I have talked to other professionals about him seeking advice and I have brought extra snacks in for him as a treat.  I would stand outside the room to observe him to try to pinpoint times of disruption and even after he ripped my shirt and bit me on the leg I still picked him up, held him and tried to calm him.  For some reason being upside down calmed him so I would lay him on my lap with his head hanging over a little and rub his stomach to help calm him down and talk with him.  At this point I thought that I had built a relationship with him because I knew some techniques that would work with him.  In truth I was sad to see him leave because I knew that meant starting all over with someone else when he was so used to us.  On the other hand this was a major stressor removed from my daily life. 

The conflict that I felt with his mother was one that resulted from frustration.  At times it was apparent that she understood what we were dealing with and she was willing to partner with us.  It was obvious that she was at wits end in trying to understand her child but was frustrated with us for not doing more.  I think that the final conversation had more to do with her feeling as though we were giving up on him versus her actually being unsatisfied with our level of care.  The technique that I applied to dealing with her was nonviolent communication.  As she yelled and attacked me it was important that I kept my own thoughts in my mind and I was able to respond without attacking her.  I had several thoughts loaded in my head that I would have loved to shoot out but I did realize that her attack was not so much a personal attack on me but her being defensive.  Even though at this point my empathy meant nothing to her it was still present and when she called just this week her tone was more humbled.

The final conflict I am still having deals with the director.  As I stated this child has since moved on as well as a second child with which we had similar problems.  They are only the tip of the iceberg because I personally believe that once we start focusing our attentions on only one child we are not effectively able to care for other children.  I think that we are doing a disservice to all the children and families in our center by allowing our days to be ruled by one child.  So I am open to suggestions in this instance.  I have found some insight from www.thethirdside.org that I want to look into further.

Resources I used for this blog:

Cheshire, N. (2007). The 3 R's: Gateway to Infant and Toddler Learning. Dimensons of Early Childhood, 35(3).

The Center for Nonviolent Communication. (n.d.). The center for nonviolent communication. Retrieved from http://www.cnvc.org/

·   The Third Side. (n.d.). The third side. Retrieved from http://www.thirdside.org/

Cheshire, N. (2007). The 3 R's: Gateway to Infant and Toddler Learning. Dimensons of Early Childhood, 35(3).

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